Twitter Storm on Testing, Call to Examine Racism

Around the country, March and April are testing season, meaning that students in high school, elementary school, and even kindergarten and pre-school face hours — sometimes weeks — of standardized testing. In New York State, educators note, language and math assessments for elementary schoolers are longer than the state bar exam. Proponents insist that standardized testing keeps teachers and schools accountable in some way, and many districts tie teacher evaluations to test results.

But growing numbers of teachers, parents and school advocates bemoan the loss of real learning in the face of testing weeks and the many hours of school time devoted to test prep. They note that students no longer enjoy school, and that play, physical activity, and many creative outlets lose out to testing hours and to the money spent on testing. New computerized tests developed to support Common Core State Standards come under particular criticism due to the high cost of implementation, frustration of students and teachers at technological breakdowns, problems in scoring, and tears of children many consider too young for testing. Additional criticism surrounds the control over education handed to private, for-private corporate entities.

In response, parents are organizing to opt their own children out of the tests. Some groups of teachers – in New York, Chicago and Seattle, for instance – are also risking their careers by refusing to administer the tests. Moreover, Network for Public Education ignited a Twitter storm last night demanding Congressional hearings on what they call testing abuse.

One common Twitter theme was “you know something is wrong.”

You know something is wrong when school budgets are cut but there is money for testing.

You know something is wrong when politicians want school choice but won’t let parents opt out of testing.

You know something is wrong when LA spends $1 billion for iPads to test kids but lays off arts teachers.

You know something is wrong when school libraries are cut but testing thrives.

You know something is horribly, horribly wrong when 7-12 year olds need test anxiety workbooks!

The “Test Hearings Now” movement demands Congressional hearings to review cost, misuse, and overuse of standardized testing and examine conflicts of interest involved in test funding.

Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-3), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, responded, saying: “The need for an impartial and transparent hearing on mandatory testing and privatization efforts directed at public education, is critical.  We need to have an open discussion about the dismantling of public education. I hope the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives will hold hearings that allow our public schools and the families they serve the opportunity to have an open and honest hearing.”

The Network for Public Education is organizing a Day of Action on March 24, encouraging members of the public to join in contacting their elected representatives and media outlets about the need for hearings on these matters. Learn more on our website.

Resources for Addressing Racism

Also this week, education advocate Melinda Anderson called on instructors to direct their ire toward another injustice, one exemplified by last month’s verdict in the murder of Jordan Davis — a black-skinned youth shot to death by a white adult who said he felt threatened after complaining about the teenagers’ music. Anderson writes:

There are tens of thousands of students like Jordan Davis being taught in our public schools – students who know what it feels like to be viewed as a threat for no other reason that being black and male. How can you not be as furious and vocal about racial injustice perpetrated against your students of color as you are about Common Core State Standards, Bill Gates, and the litany of education topics tweeted and blogged on daily? How can educators worth their salt remain silent?

She calls for educators to “get serious about educating young minds about what racism is, how it manifests and from where it comes.” Anderson argues that it is essential to “acknowledge students’ reality and arm students with the tools and knowledge to better engage complex issues like systemic racism and racial injustice.”

Anderson offers classroom resources for addressing these topics. See also DC’s local Teaching for Change are available on here.

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